This life of mine
Thursday, October 15, 2009
  Blog Action Day - Climate Change
I can't say I'm much of an ecologist, although over the last few years I have - whether consciously or unconsciously - made changes in the way that I live to try to reduce not only what I consume of the earth's resources, but also the amount of waste I generate.

I have to confess that I hadn't really made a huge connection between what I as an individual do in my life and climate change. It wasn't until we had some severe wet weather in the UK in 2007 that was attributable to climate change that I actually gave any serious thought to the subject.

The northern hemisphere is getting warmer - of that there is no doubt. When I was a child in the Midlands the winters were severe. We had no central heating, just a single coal fire in the living room, so the bedroom windows would be frosted up on the inside every morning. Even 20 years ago I remember it snowing at Easter in the Peak District. But our winters have become milder. Conversely our summers have not become significantly hotter (although we did have a couple of hot ones four or five years back, but the last two or three summers have been just blah).

What can I do about it though? Isn't it all the fault of those big power stations in Eastern Europe, or heavy industry in China? It's nothing to do with me - right?

Wrong! I have to look at where I can reduce the resources I consume which contribute to greenhouse gases. I use my car far less often than I used to (largely because of the cost of petrol (£1.05 a litre - or around $7 a US gallon to Americans) but also because I've become aware of the wastefulness of using my car for a single journey. I try to do all my errands at once and to not make short journeys if I don't have to. Yesterday I forgot to buy butter on my way home, so instead of getting the car out and going back to the supermarket for a single item, I phoned a neighbour and asked her if she could let me have a little. The cost to the environment was nil - no petrol used, just a few steps to her door.

I've started eating more vegetarian food (although I do love meat), and to try to eat seasonal, local produce, if possible. I remember as a child that strawberries were such a treat, available for a few weeks in the summer and then no more for another year. But now I can buy them all year round, along with peaches, pineapples, asparagus, Fuji apples imported from China (when we have our own perfectly delicious Cox's Orange Pippins in season), and all sorts of other exotic tropical fruit and vegetables that were unheard of when I was a child. Everything is available, all the time. It might have been forced in a greenhouse and have no taste but the supermarkets are locked in this war for customers where they have to provide everything, all the time. Yes, it's great to have choice, but there is a price to pay for eating raspberries on Christmas Day.

The neighbour I mentioned above lives in a flat the same size as mine. She and her husband are in their 80s, and I know old people like their homes to be warm but - wow! - her flat last evening was stifling. She has electric heaters, and every single one was switched on, as well as an electric fire in the living room. I could hardly breathe. I'd guess the woman who lives in the flat above barely needs to use her heating because of the heat rising from Peggy's flat below. The UK still uses a vast amount of fossil fuel to generate electricity. Ugly though they may be, I'm a fan of wind farms. The wind is free, let's harness its power. Turn that heater off, put a sweater on!

These days when I use the oven, I try to cook several things at once. I have a microwave/convection oven that I use for small stuff rather than heat the big oven. Much of this is due to parsimony rather than any high-minded ideals about conservation or greenhouse gases, but the knock-on effect is that I, in some small way, am helping to slow down the big world warm-up.

Sunday, August 16, 2009
  Brooklyn Botanical Garden
At the end of May J and I went to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. If you ever get the chance to go, please take it - it's beautiful. I didn't enjoy it as much as I could, because I was ill that day. J and I had to cut our day short and abandon our plans to have dinner in Park Slope so I could get to the ER.

Anyway, the gardens were fabulous. It was the time of year for new life, including these little guys. Watch right to the end and you'll get an extra bonus critter.


Saturday, August 15, 2009
  A pretty damn good day so far
Well, Caturday has been a good one and it's still only 5pm. On my next trip to NYC I won't be staying with the hunky J, and so won't have computer access. Eeeep! Because everyone I know has a constant online life, I decided to join the world of mobile computing. (My phone does have some kind of internet connectivity, but I'll be damned if I know how it works. I want a phone to make calls and send texts.)

Anyway, I'd narrowed the choice down to three - a Dell or an Acer (from PC World) or a Toshiba (from House of Fraser - I had some gift vouchers left over from my birthday, including £70 from House of Fraser. So although their prices are maybe £10 or £15 higher than a dedicated computer retailer, the £70 I see as 'free' money.

I've bought a few big ticket items recently - a matress, a headboard, curtains, etc. and to the salespeople it looks as if I am the most impusive buyer ever. For example, when I bought my new mattress, I walked into the store at quarter to five on a Friday, pointed to a mattress and said to the salesman "I'll have one of those, please". But in the previous couple of months, I'd been to lots of bed places, tried tons of mattresses and when I'd made my choice, I tested the mattress out at three different branches of the store to make sure it was equally comfortable and I hadn't just found a flukey one.

So, after I decided to get a netbook, I researched online, took advice from people who know a lot more about these things than I do, walked into the tech department at House of Fraser today, and out ten minutes later with the Toshiba.

It's a neat little bit of kit. I don't have a wireless router, so it's connected to my wired-up ISP, and I'm also using a mouse because, well, I've got sausage fingers and will need to get used to the touchpad.

I've got it on the dining table, which always reminds me of the time I was trying to give my sister long-distance tech support over the phone.

Me: "Okay, go back to your desktop."


Sister: "It's not on a desk, it's on the dining table."

Anyhow, I'm delighted with my little Toshiba, particularly as I spent the first hour transferring all my favourite programmes onto it.

But delighted though I am with my netbook, that wasn't the highlight of the day. I'd got off the Tube at Tottenham Court Road, as I wanted to look in a few of the furniture places up there (the hunt for the perfect rug and ideal lampshade continues), and I cut down Goodge Street, which runs parallel to Oxford Street, to avoid the crowds. If I lived in Central London (for which I would need either to win the lottery or rob a Bond Street jeweller) it'd be in that part of town, Fitzrovia.

It was coming up to lunchtime, and there are a ton of cafes and bars in Fitzrovia, so I wasn't spoilt for choice. But I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a genuine taqueria, serving the most fantastic burritos and tacos. I was the first customer of the day, and everything was fresh and delicious. I had soft, tender, flavoursome shredded braised pork in my burrito, with refried beans, cilantro rice, salsa, guacamole, lettuce, sour cream. It was absolutely delicious, and the made-that-day limeade was superb.

The bill? By London standards it was ridiculously cheap. £5 for the burrito and £1 for the drink. (I know, I know, it's expensive by American standards, but for London, and central London at that, it's ridiculously cheap.)

I also took a few pictures of unusual/interesting bits of architecture. In Cavendish Square a woman asked me why on earth I was taking a photo of the dullest building in the square. I pointed out to her that, to me, it was a fantastic example of Art Deco. Not everyone likes ancient, ornate buidings.

I've got a ton of pictures still to upload to Flickr from my last trip to New York. I'll probably do that tomorrow, while the football's on. Flickr uploader takes forever.

So, a very happy bunny this weekend, so far.

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Friday, July 10, 2009
  In case anyone wondered where I've been ...
... this is what’s been happening with me in the last couple of weeks.

Well, the work on the flat has begun, and it’s amazing. All the old striped wallpaper has gone and the walls are now a lovely pale yellow/peach colour that’s very popular in the UK – magnolia. It’s popular for a good reason. - it looks lovely.

The new wooden floors are down and look incredible, a light golden oak that really reflects the sunlight. The living room doorway and glazed bit next to it have been knocked through ready for folding doors to go on. Storage has been built in the hall and is awaiting the sliding doors. My old built-in closet in the bedroom now has lovely mirrored doors. It all looks absolutely fabulous.

The cats hate me, as their pampered little lives of sleep have been disrupted by the builders. They're also getting used to the new wooden floors. Funniest sight of the week was Bailey running through the flat and realising that she couldn't stop in time or turn before she skidded on her fat little butt and went into the patio doors. She had the exact same look on her face that Wile E. Coyote has when he runs off the edge of a cliff. I LOL'd. If I'd been quick enough I'd have run over and opened the door so she'd have sailed through it. (On second thoughts, no, I'm far enough in the doghouse with those cats as it is.) Bailey has already thrown up on the new floor, I suspect as some kind of message to me.

I’ve spent shedloads of hard-earned buying new stuff – I have a sofa and a mattress on order, I’ve bought curtains, light fittings, curtain poles and I still need to get lots of accessories – table lamps, new bedding and curtains for the bedroom, a new headboard, rugs, a new TV, all the little bits and pieces, such as a new waste bin for the kitchen, and lots of storage boxes so I can put everything away behind the sliding doors.

I’ve seen a fabulous painting for the living room wall. It’s a real painting, and I love it, but it’s a mass-produced thing, so not what a connoisseur would call ‘art’. But I know nothing about art except what I like, and I like this particular picture very much. It'll look lovely above the sofa.

But in moving phone points, my builder has somehow borked both my phone and internet. There’s a lot of crackle on the phones, and the net speed has fallen from between 5,000 and 7,000 kbps to about 120 kbps. The connection also keeps dropping without warning. It’s like dial-up fun all over again. I put microfilters on the phone points tonight, which seems to have stopped the connection from dropping (quite so much) but it’s still very slow. Tomorrow I’ll haul the computer into the living room, take off the master faceplate and connect the compute through a microfilter into the BT test socket. If I get high-speed on that, then it’s an internal wiring/filtering issue.

It’s been both a damn nuisance and a blessing, as it’s given me time to focus on all the sorting out of accumulated belongings into what I’m keeping, what I’m giving to charity and what can go in bin bags down to the dump. I lead such an exciting life.

Work has been … interesting.

While the builders are in, I have to go into the office five days a week. 5.30am starts every weekday morning are killing me. I'm really missing my two days at home, and it's also had quite an effect on my physically, because my tendonitis is really bad. At least I have a good argument for making sure I can retain my two days a week at home (where I use voice-dictation software to dictate my casework straight into Word). Employers hate disability claims and if I had to be typing five days a week over the long-term, I'd be in serious difficulty. There's too much ambient noise in our huge open-plan offices to use the voice-dictation software at work, because it's very sensitive. If one of the cats walks into my home office and meows, the words 'the owl' appear on screen!

Earlier this year there was an online ‘confidential’ staff survey. You didn’t have to give your name, but you had to give your job title and the area of the business where you worked so it was fairly easy to pinpoint who had answered which question.

So, on Tuesday, a group of us were ‘invited’ to discuss the survey results with one of the managers. The nearest thing I can compare it with is the episode of The Office where Michael Scott gets hold of Toby’s grievances file and then has a meeting to discuss everyone’s grievances. It was excruciating. As I have no chance of any advancement or promotion, I didn’t give a shit, because I have no career prospects to destroy, but a lot of people were very unhappy about having their so-called confidential answers to the survey discussed.

And yesterday one of my old complainants contacted our Help Desk to complain about me. The case that I dealt with involved her making allegations that her bank manager had, on the instructions of MI5, murdered her mother, because her father had been a Conscientious Objector during World War Two. Anyway, she’s now complaining that I am stalking her (er, yeah, right). that I am a friend of Vanessa Feltz and the police are going to arrest me. (I didn’t know that being friends with Vanessa Feltz was a criminal offence. I have never met Vanessa Feltz, btw, although I did see her outside the BBC in Marylebone High Street one day shouting at someone on her mobile phone.)

So, that’s all the news that’s fit to print. I’m looking forward to the MeFi meetup next week, and will be sure to wear my Three Wolf Moon t-shirt. It can only bring me joy and riches. I’m at the hairdresser tomorrow and am sorely tempted to ask for a mullet …
Saturday, June 20, 2009
  At last! At last!
My builder/decorator starts work on Tuesday. I've been waiting so long for him to finish the big job he's been working on since last September, but he's now ready to do the work on my little flat.

But - OMG! - panic! I have such a lot of packing to do between now and Tuesday - putting all my clothes into suitcases, manoeuvering furniture into the hall (two chests of drawers and a double bed), boxing up all my bits and pieces. It's going to be chaotic for a few weeks, but so worth it when it's all done.

What am I having done? New wooden flooring throughout, all the old wallpaper stripped off and the walls painted a nice, pale yellow/peachy colour, a new fitted wardrobe in the bedroom, lots of storage built in the recess in the hall, with sliding doors covering it, a glazed doorway removed and replaced with folding doors, radiator covers, all cables hidden away, kitchen painted, new flooring in the kitchen ...

And there's all the extras that I'll need to buy as well - lampshades, bedspreads, curtains, blinds, rugs, a new sofa, a new TV, etc., etc. But it'll be fantastic when it's done, and I've been waiting so long finally to make this place my own. The current decor is all my ex-husband's taste and it's eight years since he's been gone, so a complete re-do is definitely long overdue.

I will never have to vacuum that crappy carpet again! Ever! Yaaaay!

And I've decided that when it's all been done and everything's looking good, I'm going to get a cleaner to come in once a week. That'll encourage me to be tidier (I'll actually have some storage space to tidy things into) and it shouldn't be expensive, because this is such a small flat. Probably about £20 a week, which will be money well spent.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
  Terminal Bar
Clicking through the hundreds of TV channels I have available (and yet never seem to find anything to watch) I came across the most wonderful short film - Terminal Bar, by Stefan Nadelman. Just 22 minutes long, mostly in black and white, featuring portraits of the customers and pictures of the bar taken by the barman, Sheldon Nadelman (Stefan's father), over the ten years he worked at the Terminal Bar (on the corner of 8th Ave and 41st St) from 1972 until the bar closed in 1982.

It's a fascinating chronicle of how the bar changed from old New Yorkers (who mostly drank themselves to death) to a black gay bar. Sheldon looks through his pictures, which he numbered, and reminisces about the customers, some fondly, others not so much, many by name, others just by the number on their photograph. I loved it.

Here's a 3-minute segment to give you a taste of the flavour and atmosphere of this evocative film. A short film, but not a small one.

Friday, May 08, 2009
  You know ...
... life is pretty damn good right now.

Work is going well - I'm on top of my caseload, I'm slowly getting through my most difficult cases, and they're never as bad once I start them as I think they're going to be. And we've had a spate of 'easy' cases come through - single issue complaints that are generally straightforward to deal with.

I'm really happy to be working where I work - the money is dreadful, taking into account my level of qualification - but the work's interesting and, the most important thing for me, there's a great work/life balance. I remember how horrible it was in private practice when I'd wake up with the first thought in my head being work-work-work, and the last thought before I went to sleep, after lying awake fretting about work, would be ... work. Poor, but free of stress (most of the time) is preferable.

Yesterday I walked to Mudchute Farm at lunchtime. It's ten minutes away from the office and all the noise, dust, crowds and building sites of Canary Wharf.

They've got some wonderful chickens and roosters there - really beautiful ornamental-looking ones with feathered legs, and gorgeous plumage. There were loads of them out enjoying the sunshine on Tuesday, but it was a bit overcast and grey yesterday and there didn't seem to be as many around. Maybe they go indoors when it's colder.

This one was asleep.

It's really amazing to me that there are farm animals living in the Inner City.

More photos of the farm here.

Yesterday was a damned good day. Not only did I have a lovely long chat with J. when I got home, but it was the perfect evening to veg out in front of the TV.

First, it was American Idol. In the UK we get the performance show on a Thursday night (heavily edited to remove all the vote-vote-vote stuff, as we can't vote from the UK anyway), followed by the results show on Fridays. I generally go online after the Thursday show to see who's been eliminated, and skip Friday.

I'm feeling the Adam Lambert love, that's for sure. That boy is awesome. I'm also excited that I'll be in Ohio on Finale night, so I'll be able to vote for Adam (assuming he makes it through next week - how could he not??!!)

singing rock boy @ Yahoo! Video

Then, after Idol, there were back-to-back episodes of ER, the final series, and these were the episodes in which Dr Doug Ross made his comeback. I watched ER from the very beginning, and of course it was the start of my adoration of George Clooney which continues to this day.

After Dr Ross left I thought the show would never be the same, but it introduced some great characters and in its day it was a wonderful ensemble show. It jumped the shark a few years back and I stuck with it for a couple of seasons after that but I gave up on it after watching a couple of episodes of the penultimate season. I hate it when a drama show turns into a soap opera.

It was sooo good, though, to see gorgeous George in his scrubs, being all authoritative yet sympathetic with Susan Sarandon. Damn, that man is fabulous.

Just one more week until my holiday, and two until my biiiiiig birthday.

Yeah, life is good right now.
Rantings of a sober madwoman

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Location: Essex, England, United Kingdom
February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / February 2007 / February 2008 / May 2008 / August 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / March 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / October 2009 /

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